25 March 2019


Democratic SA introspects as it turns 24

by: SAnews.gov.za and Semphete Correspondent    date: 04 May 2018

South Africa marked the 24th anniversary of democracy last Friday – 27 April – with different events to remind citizens of where the country comes from and what it has achieved so far. 

Known as Freedom Day and observed on 27 April every year, the day commemorates the first time all South Africans of legal age across the colour spectrum, voted in the country's first democratic general elections in 1994. The African National Congress (ANC) won those elections and its then President, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, became the country's first democratically elected President.

On 27 April 24 years ago, almost 20 million South Africans queued to vote in the country's first frqee and democratic elections. While the country’s citizens mark this momentous occasion with a public holiday, many use the opportunity to reflect on the achievements that the country has recorded since 1994. 

This year’s government celebrations focused on five areas that included deepening the understanding of where the country comes from and how democracy was achieved, as well as celebrating the legacy of struggle icons Mandela and Mama Albertina Sisulu. Both of them would have turned 100 this year. The theme of the day was: “The year of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela: Towards full realisation of our freedom through radical socio-economic transformation”.

Freedom Day also celebrated the stories of the unsung heroes and heroines in society. It showcased South Africa’s diverse background and culture, mobilised society around the implementation of National Development Plan’s Vision 2030 and building a positive image of South Africa as a proud and caring nation.

Freedom Day celebrations took place countrywide, with the main event taking place at Dr Petrus Molemela Stadium in Bloemfontein, Free State, where President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered a keynote address.

The President described Freedom Day as “the day on which our rightful place as a people deserving of respect and dignity was restored, where the humiliation of racial discrimination formally came to an end.   
“With our new democratic constitution embracing equal rights and opportunities for all we ceased to be pariahs in the land of our birth. We had, at last, an opportunity to build a new and better life for all our people,” he said. 
Ramaphosa, however, admitted that while a lot has been done to address the racial and gender distortions of the past, so much more remains to be done.
“Therefore, as we celebrate the freedoms we have achieved and the great advances we have made, let us use this Freedom Day to affirm our determination to intensify the struggle for economic freedom for all our people. Our people cannot be truly free if they do not have jobs, if they do not have an education and if they do not have livelihoods,” the President said. 

He continued: “We need to grow our economy and create decent work. We need to attract investment on a much greater scale and we need to improve the education and skills of our people. At the same time, we need to transform the ownership, control and management of the economy so that black South Africans and women are fully represented and equally benefit. In short, we need to intensify radical economic transformation”.

SAnews spoke to two generations of South Africans -- the pre-1994 and post-1994 (born frees) -- to get their views on the state of the country 24 years into democracy. Both generations acknowledged the progress made in key areas such as health, education and access to basic services. However, they also noted the long road that lies ahead in addressing unemployment, poverty and inequality.

“Government can do more to curb poverty, crime and unemployment and [expedite land expropriation] -- then we’ll be a step closer to being economically free as well,” said Vuyelwa Plaatjie, who turned up to celebrate Freedom Day in Bloemfontein.

Another youth, Tobi Kgaliya, acknowledged the work that was being done to level the playing field. 

“Government is really trying, but the road ahead is still very long. At least there are a lot of opportunities for black people compared to the pre-1994 era. I can exercise my freedom of speech, even through social media, without having to worry about being censored,” Kgaliya said. 

Others felt that government needs to put more effort into widening access and creating awareness of the opportunities available to young people to better themselves. More must be done to make rural youth aware of education and employment opportunities.

The older generation recalled the day they voted.

“I don't think any of us can forget that day and where we come from as a country. We are free, but still not truly free. Poverty is imprisoning us. Things are expensive and jobs are few. If government can work on that, then maybe we can celebrate better,” said Martha Molathloe.

Ramaphosa seemed to convey a message of hope in his Freedom Day speech. 

“Now we have an opportunity to put our remarkable capabilities as a people to the advancement of human progress. Our duty, as custodians of this democracy, is to direct all our resources to conquer poverty, joblessness, racial hatred, anarchy, violence and lawlessness, illiteracy and idleness and place our country on a path of growth, development and lasting freedom,” he said.